New MAVEN Launch to Mars Hopes to Reveal Earth's Future

NASA's latest mission to the red planet hopes to shed light on where Earth's fate may be headed.
9:12 | 11/13/13

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Transcript for New MAVEN Launch to Mars Hopes to Reveal Earth's Future
This is a special group. Lover -- anti Hernandez in New York with his ABC news digital special report a mission to Mars. Could tell us about the Earth's future we believe Mars once had an earth like atmosphere but something changed. And that is what we are all set to investigate -- sending a spacecraft. Find out more and mars' atmosphere in the volatile evolution or maven mission we'll take off on Monday. For the first time analyze mars' upper atmosphere to solve a four billion year old question. What -- Mars -- into the cold red planet we see today. To answer that question let's bring in Goddard. -- chief scientist Jim Garvin at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland Jim good morning to you good afternoon. So good morning and afternoon do any -- -- -- that midway point out. Tell us about the -- made in this space probe what is it going to do. So maven is a reconnaissance mission it's kind of like a detective flying in orbit around Mars. To read the record of how the Mars atmosphere really tiny rarefied atmosphere escapes and evolved in. In the presence of space and -- lives and spaces atmosphere constantly in Iraq's with space -- -- that works the physics and chemistry. Is critical to taking a martial today. And figuring out how it got to be that way. Relative to that exciting -- of the past. Whose record we see in the signs in the rocks from the curiosity rover a warmer wetter better climate place the kind of place we want to ask. What are we alone but -- of today is very different maven will start to piece together that puzzle for us with up close measurements of this exciting plan. So I think you answered my next question -- how do we know that Mars once had an earth like atmosphere. And how -- -- investigate. Why it changed you know what what samples will may even take our pictures will -- take that -- answer that question for us. So we know Mars was warmer and wetter had a different -- -- him anyway. Today the curiosity rover on Mars has incredible equipment and instruments develop across the world. Even here in America outer space flight center -- can read the chemistry of Iraq's. Suggest warm wet. All the right ingredients for a habitable world in the past but. Billions of years ago. That record is long gone -- -- lost in time if you well. So we need to connect that to the Mars -- today which looks forbidding. It's extremely called. Very dry all the waters locked up in ice in minerals in small amounts of water vapor. In the atmosphere on the polar caps so that's a big story line how we connect them. -- -- to the rescue. Make the measurements of the -- mars' atmosphere. How -- works and space connect the dots back in time. To what we see in those records from the curiosity rover from opportunity rover from spirit rover from our previous missions -- -- -- together. We're trying to paint a masterpiece here and we haven't gotten all the little colored squares yet ready to paint -- -- will fill in many of them. We often talk about saving the Earth's environment saving the Earth's atmosphere do you think that there be any lessons learned in terms of what happened on Mars. Absolutely the record on Mars is like mother nature's great control experiment. Good planet right conditions something happen. And here on earth we have this wonderful biological world that we live on our -- home planet. And we can't predict all the future consequences of what could happen we live in space. Space is a very unpredictable places we've seen with meteor showers and all that kind of stuff so we need to see how we live -- -- by being informed by the history on Mars. -- know some of the things to expect we will look back in time on Mars compared to our own records here on -- and projected hat. And that's why comparing the -- of our solar system as we look here and even -- to new solar systems. Beyond our own is so important finding our place in space. We always talk about the possibility of life on Mars -- it is particularly in the past. Will maiden shed any light on that. Absolutely -- is -- mission about reading the history of the atmosphere and finding about how -- -- ability works. The right conditions in the atmosphere in the climate state in the magnetic field all that stuff. It's critical to allowing life to get a foothold if Mars had that chance would be wonderful if it did were still looking. Then we need to know well what went wrong or what are you go. How did if there were any -- -- that we don't know those questions Mars is the best. First place to look for life beyond earth from what we know today it really is. And so are we alone we go to Mars may even fills in one piece of that puzzle for us this question of have -- ability looking through the lens of the atmosphere. Very important step -- want to do for more than thirty years and now we're doing it. Now correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that there are two -- theories about where Mars atmosphere went to either escaped. -- -- into outer space -- fell into the soil can explain those scenarios. Well there's different models their story lines on what might have happened certainly the Mars atmosphere is continuously lost at some of what level to space. The consequences of big -- to patients gigantic impacts of comets and asteroids. Combined with the small nature of Mars relative -- -- could -- could lead to other mechanisms for loss one of them suggest. But those big impact blew off some of the atmosphere what was left is what could be retained by a small planet. Perhaps produced by volcanoes and -- gases out gassing. Producing a minor mars' atmosphere other questions are martian hemispheres a big chemistry -- -- good chemistry sat. Some of it interacts with the surface producing the red dust that we see on the rocks from curiosity opportunity. Allows us to say well maybe hamsters and a continuous chemistry experiment some of the changes some of it has lost remember. Mars is only 40% the size of the earth. Its answer today is on the order of 11 thousands of the -- We're looking at a very different system. And that's important as we understand what it could have been in the past and where it is today. Now maven is gonna leave from Cape Canaveral on Monday but it takes quite -- -- yet to be quite a very patient scientists to wait for Megan's arrival how long -- this trip going to take. That's going to be a ten month voyage -- you know that's up. As long as on the first leg of magellan's great trip around the the first over -- and they. In that 15100 so long trip long way. -- even goes the very slow careful safe way to Mars -- fly for over 400 million. Kilometers to get there. Conduct of special maneuver to going to orbit and started science so we -- begin our science mission until next fall. But we're used to being patient as as time goes in space and back at this time to learn about Mars from curiosity and other missions and get ready for the onslaught of data from -- which will be treasure fro. Now many people you know while -- is set to launch -- very much looking forward to the first manned mission to Mars we see that one of the challenges is. Frankly takes a very long time to even get there are so when in the foreseeable future do we think a man mission to be Mars would be possible -- what are some of the challenges standing in the way. Well first people to Mars you know -- a dream for most of us communities the long trip the great voyage. May be akin to the Renaissance voyages of 500 years ago but it's really hard president Kennedy said -- time. So idiots it's so much farther than the -- and we. We're just learning on our International Space Station now some of the things it takes to live and work in space for ten months just to get somewhere. So that's an important first step we're doing that. We're exploring Mars with robots like -- and curiosity. With the new rover and 22 point eight that we hope will collect though right samples to cash to some to be brought home to -- these are steps. Toward getting ready to send human beings women and men to Mars. We need to practice -- engineering to make that round trip. Ready for people because it's so far thousands of times farther than the -- -- was from earth. We can do this the engineering community of this planet is ready to take on that challenge we need to do what with our eyes wide open to the real Mars. Mars is an -- -- place we need to get to know it in order to go there ourselves I'm hoping in the lifetime of our children. We will see that time -- the history books will change as people go to Mars. And as you said thanks to rover and made -- for paving the way Goddard chief scientist Jim -- thank you so much for joining us. And for more on NASA's new mission to -- -- -- check out -- -- Dot com right here for now -- Hernandez New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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